Orwell’s famous dystopia 1984 is often cited as a parable about the banality of administrative evil. The ever-vigilant bureaucrats of Oceania position themselves not only on the Left side of history, but also at its end. To err from their ideology is treason.
The citizens of Oceania live in a state of self-imposed hypnosis where they have to pretend that even the simplest of words signify their exact opposites. The government agency that specializes in espionage and torture is thus called The Ministry of Love. The Ministry views every sexual act as a potential crime unless proven otherwise via affirmative surveillance.
Imagine a federal agency that has invested itself with the authority to monitor the most private details of citizens to root out sexual heresy. Imagine a federal agency which once contemplated installing security cameras in every classroom in order to monitor the facial and optical muscles of all students nationwide.
This agency was so devoted to its ideological mission that it never presented its unconstitutional rules to the American public to consult their opinion, considered itself to be a superior alternative to the criminal justice system, granted itself universal jurisdiction, threatened many colleges with financial death unless they punished constitutionally protected speech, sought to abolish the “reasonable person” standard, and created a class of imitative bureaucrats in academic institutions to perpetuate an industry of victimhood.
Impossible, you think? We have just objectively described the record of the Department of Education’s civil rights branch, the Office for Civil Rights.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) received bipartisan and professional criticism for its unconstitutional actions during the Obama administration. Formal critics include the Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, National Association of Scholars, California Governor Jerry Brown, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, American College of Trial Lawyers, and Reason Foundation.
Moreover, courts that have heard cases involving OCR’s Title IX procedures have often strongly denounced them. Examples include condemnatory opinions from the Second Circuit of Appeals and the Sixth Circuit of Appeals. In a recent Seventh Circuit of Appeals opinion, Judge Barrett stated that “Purdue’s process fell short of what even a high school must provide to a student facing a days-long suspension.” Professor KC Johnson has covered the case in greater detail.
Obama’s OCR espoused a particular brand of radical feminism. According to this doctrine, taught across the nation in women’s studies departments, men have brutalized women since the beginning of history. Past oppression must be remedied through government intervention, eliminating the due process principles that are meant to protect every American.
The perils of government tyranny aside, the fundamental assumptions of the “patriarchy theory” cannot survive rational scrutiny. While it is true that women were historically denied various rights, they have also been sheltered from grievous harm (combat, for example). Also, analysis of federal aggregate data from the United States demonstrates that women are as likely to engage in sexual coercion against men as vice versa, which undermines the “patriarchy” narrative.
At any rate, past historical wrongs cannot be rectified by unfair treatment in the present, as the Eighth Circuit stated in this ruling.
OCR’s historical record speaks to its lack of fairness. The agency authored a total of 255 resolution letters (formal decisions in a case) from 2012 to 2019.
Pekgoz summarizes the circumstances in a Synthetic Analysis.
The analysis shows that whenever OCR wrote a resolution letter between 2012 and 2019 to adjudicate adversarial proceedings between female and male parties, they sided with the female 216 times but only 9 times with the male. Their extreme partisanship is clear in every aspect of Title IX.
- Athletics. The Department’s athletics compliance tests have been rightfully criticized for imposing unconstitutional quotas. The agency sided with female athletes 63 times, but sided with the male only once between 2012 and 2019. The only resolution letter favorable for male athletes is the Temple University Letter.
- Grading. The Department sided with female students who alleged discrimination in grading on multiple occasions, while dismissing very similar allegations by male students.
- Retaliation. The Department sided with female complainants alleging retaliation on many occasions. There are at least 23 letters in this category, such as the Jacksonville State University Letter where the agency sided with a “falsely accused” woman. There is no clear example of the Department siding with a male student alleging retaliation on the basis of sex, but dismissal letters do exist.
- Sexual Harassment. Male students who petitioned the agency to allege bias in sexual harassment disputes (either as the accused, or the accuser) had a success rate of 1.1 percent during 2012-2019 (6/532). The Department was very aggressive when it came to siding with female accusers while consistently dismissing the concerns of accused males. This is despite male students often suffering life-altering consequences, such as expulsion or a permanent notation on their transcript, in addition to severe emotional distress. Some have committed suicide.
- Reasonableness. OCR urged schools to get rid of the “reasonable person” standard at least twice: One letter involved a female student who accused a male teacher of staring at her breasts for 3-4 seconds. Another letter involved a costly systemic review because very young students were playing “National Grab Ass Day” during play time. The agency even sided with a female student whose claims of sexual violence were disproven via DNA evidence.
- Due Process. While sending a dismissal letter to an accused male student, OCR argued that “due process” is not covered by Title IX. As long as the accused is a man, that is. Federal bureaucrats aggressively sided with women who were accused of various sexual infractions. On one occasion, the Department condemned a university for allowing a male to file a counter-claim of misconduct against a female student. Another time, the agency threatened a university with loss of federal funding for pressing fraud charges against a woman who made false accusations. There is also an example of OCR using defamation theory to side with a female complainant, even though the agency has never accepted any complaints concerning the damaged reputations of accused men.
- Single-Sex Programs. Women are the majority of college students, but many colleges offer dozens of support programs for women only. Whenever male complainants challenge female-only programs, such as women’s centers or STEM camps for girls, the Department has dismissed their complaints on various pretexts. One popular pretext is that these female-only programs cannot be challenged unless men specifically apply to them and receive rejections, thus creating a putative victim. However, OCR has resolved procedural complaints in the absence of any victim on many occasions, as long as the objective was consistent with their agenda.
- American Psychological Association (APA) Guidelines. OCR dismissed a Title IX complaint challenging the APA guidelines, which sought to classify masculinity as a mental illness factor. This was despite serious public outcry against those guidelines. In the dismissal letter, officials argued that Title IX cannot be applied in a manner that would interfere with curricular materials. That was false. OCR has aggressively interfered with the training materials and the curricular materials of various colleges as long as doing so furthers their gender agenda.
- Administrative Closure. OCR has a rule requiring the dismissal of pending complaints if similar allegations have been filed elsewhere. This rule is rigorously applied to male students to dismiss their Title IX complaints. However, when female students file complaints against their institutions, administrative closure is not applied to dismiss their allegations.
Some might assume that OCR has received few meritorious complaints from male students. According to a Freedom of Information Act request, however, the Department received 532 complaints from men in the sexual harassment category alone between 2011 and 2019.
The Department of Education became a hive of identity politics under Obama and there is little evidence of improvement. The modest reforms proposed by Secretary Betsy DeVos have not yet been implemented.
Resolution letters published under the Trump administration perpetuate the Obama doctrines. For example, the Stanford University letter tried to eliminate the reasonable person standard. The Butte-Glenn Community College letter involved a retroactive review of many old complaints, demanding the creation of a complex bureaucracy. The Buffalo State University letter wrongfully claimed that off-campus incidents fall under the jurisdiction of Title IX, despite case law to the contrary.
Unsurprisingly, some politicians want to abolish the entire Department of Education. Representative Thomas Massie has introduced a bill to do just that. While we cannot predict whether the Department will ever be abolished, we must never cease our vigilance against our very own Ministry of Love.
Kursat Christoff Pekgoz is a PhD student at the University of Southern California.
James E. Moore, II is professor of industrial and systems engineering; public policy and management; and civil engineering at the University of Southern California.